Lineball

In June of 1961 I moved to 156 East Superior. This was my second move since I had left the steel mill and embarked on my show business career, and like the first move, it was somewhat symbolic. I must have been confident that I was going to make it, because my rent doubled, to $200 a month. I was moving to the other side of Michigan Avenue, into an apartment in an old thirty-two-flat building, seven rooms instead of two, with an old-fashioned elevator with a grate that you had to close by hand. I used the place both as a living space and as an office. It was nothing approaching luxury, but it was comfortable.

Suddenly, for the first time in my life, I was running a business. Until now, I’d done everything myself: put together the advertising, delivered the tickets to the record stores that were selling them for us, handled the maiI-order sales. On show nights, I ran the backstage operation and the front of the house, and was in my seat by fifteen minutes after the curtain went up. The most help I ever had was a part-time secretary. There just wasn’t any more going on than I had the energy to cover.

This was still a very small part of the entertainment business, and it was no strain to attend all the concerts. And I would have gone anyway. I understood the music and the performers, all of whom were my contemporaries, give or take ten years. Some were my friends. I respected what they did, and I believed in them — at least I believed they were sincere about what they thought they were doing. Whether they were indeed doing what they thought they were doing is another question, which history will have to judge. At a minimum, they were offering what I thought of as listening music, music that located its message in the lyric, not so much in the rhythm or the effects.

I had no social life to speak of, but I did find time to play steady lineball for a while. A handful of men about my age were getting together occasionally at Lakeshore Park, about four blocks from my office. One of the hip young priests at Holy Name Cathedral who I’d met hanging around the Gate of Horn invited me to join them. We could get a spot in the park at odd times during the day, because we all worked mostly nights. A couple of the guys owned saloons, another was a bartender, and the priest, of course, could play any day except Sunday. For about a year and a half we kept a casual six-team league going.

Lineball was a very fast·moving, quintessentially Chicago game that I think has died out by now. You played with a 16-inch softball. It was the ideal game if you only had enough people for a pitcher, an infielder and an outfielder. Not being the greatest of runners, though, I liked it better than regular softball. The field was a narrow slice of a pie: you didn‘t cover the whole 90-degree angle, and you didn‘t run bases. You hit the ball a certain distance for a single, a double, a triple or a home run, and you only got one strike. lf you fouled once, you were out.

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